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Blues fans will be overjoyed to find that a new musical gem has already risen to the surface this year in the form of Get Up! an album featuring Ben Harper and the legendary harmonica player, Charlie Musselwhite. Get Up! takes the talent of both Grammy Award winning musicians and creates a classic album that people will be talking about for years to come. Channeling influences from classic blues musicians like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Robert Johnson, these two experienced artists have created a crisp, ten-track blues album that holds its own amongst the genre.
Opening with “Don’t Look Twice”, it does not take very long for Ben Harper’s cool, smooth voice to be joined by a wild harmonica solo courtesy of Charlie Musselwhite. A video was released for this track, featuring the two musicians within the recording studio, giving fans a taste of their chemistry before the album was released.
The blues community has always been a close-knit one, but fans still may be surprised to find that Get Up! is a project ten years in the making. Harper and Musselwhite share a friendship that they credit renowned singer-songwriter John Lee Hooker with forming, after they both recorded with him. On his website, Musselwhite says, “Ever since then we wanted to record together, and being in the studio together is just natural. You can hear it and feel it on the music on Get Up!”
Tracks like “I’m in, I’m Out, and I’m Gone”, “I Don’t Believe a Word You Say”, and “Blood Side Out” are the album’s edgiest. With the refrain “I Don’t Believe a Word You Say” Harper takes the liberty to experiment with vocals and travels a wide emotional range as well. Then of course there are the tracks that highlight the talent and experience of Musselwhite, a 27-time Blues Music Award-winner, like the gospel-infused track, “We Can’t End This Way”, and “You Found Another Lover (And I Lost a Friend)”. The latter is delicate and stripped down, featuring solely Harper’s vocals, guitar, and Musselwhite’s harmonica. Recounting a tale of lost love, heartbreak, and repentance, the song may get buried within the other rough and adventurous lyrics within the album, but it still showcases the talent of these two accomplished musicians in a positive light.
As a whole, Get Up! does not read solely as a blues album. There are definitely heavy rock and roll influences that Ben Harper brings in from his eclectic musical background, which follows a path ranging from folk to soul to reggae to funk. “She Got Kick”, the second to last song on the album, relies heavily on familiar rock and roll riffs and a driving interplay between snare drum and tambourine that gives the track more of an optimistic vibe. Still the wide variety of sounds still harken back to the classic roots of blues, making the album something that fans of the genre will enjoy listening to, both for the new material and the opportunity to reminisce.